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Quinoa

January 9, 2011

Yeah it seems like the trend of over priced brunches is here to stay. This hangover Sunday the subject of the post is the probably very new Quinoa bakery in Rua do Alecrim. And let me tell you, for a self proclaimed bio bakery this guys are pretty damn stingy with the bread on their brunch plate. Highlight of the meal was most definitely the beautiful granola and fruit yogurt in the beginning of the meal. This was the nicest granola I’ve ever tasted and the good news is that they sell it for you to take home too, the bad news is that it cost 12€ a package of 400 grams which is insane. And the insanity in prices doesn’t end with the granola, but let’s return to this point a bit later. Apart from the lovely yogurt the place itself is beautiful. A really well done mixture of old and modern, really nice music, very cosy and relaxed and though this kind of places are more and more often in Lisbon, it’s always nice to have the choice.
This being said, let’s talk about lowlights shall we? Horrible watered down natural juice, extremely unbalanced cheese-bread relation, disturbing small amount of scrambled eggs. And the prices, my god the prices. Whoever told this people that nouvelle cuisine brunches is the way to go should be slapped on the face. Can’t they understand that a brunch by definition is a meal where you end up having more on the plate then you can handle? After all the thing is breakfast and lunch, and the reason why we only get it on Sundays is because we need to soak all that alcohol out with food. So make us all a favour trendy Lisbon brunch Cafés, when making a brunch think that what we all love so much about this meal is that in the end turns out being a great deal where we can get out coffee refilled and eat till we burst for a considerable low price.
Quinoa is, overall, one more sort of pretentious brunch place in dear old Lisbon with a nice atmosphere and horrible food quality-price relation.

Kaffeehaus

October 23, 2010

Well, it’s not that I spent all this time doing nothing interesting but acute laziness didn’t allow me to post any novelties in this blog.

I did went to London on Easter and to the Basque country, Provence and Bretagne on Summer. Been to some new restaurants and saw films and concerts. Even learned to cook new tasty recipes and got addicted to television shows that everybody should get addicted to, because they are that good. Met new people and made new friends that I advise you to become friends also because they are the coolest people ever. I even started a new business, or the closest I can get at the moment of starting one. So there are loads of stuff to talk about, sadly those stuff are water that passed under the bridge long ago, and no one is interested of reading about them anymore, neither I am interested of writing about them. So let’s start fresh!!

 

 

This morning, Saturday morning, I dragged my lazy ass out of home and came for breakfast at kaffehaus. The place is very well intentioned but sins for its extreme confidence in the value of their food and products, which is the same as saying, they are way to expensive for what they offer. A brunch made of 2 frankfurt sausages, fresh out of the can with some gravy, 2 scrambled eggs, 2 slices of bread and 1 small bun for 9.80€, that doesn’t include coffee or juice or both, in Lisbon is almost criminal. You really feel like crossing the road, enter in the police station on the other side and say that you have been robbed. But instead of that, as personal revenge, I moved myself here for the past couple of hours and I don’t intend to leave before this post is complete or someone kicks me out. Wouldn’t it be for the shouting children in the next table, I could stay forever! The place is rather nice. I like the decor, very clean and northern styled, the big windows and the cosy and comfortable seats. The coffee, even though expensive, is delicious and probably the only place I’ve ever been in Lisbon that knows how to make a cappuccino. The food is tasty, it’s not fantastic but even though I didn’t taste them, for the looks of it they might have the best croissant in town too. So if you’re in the mood to spend loads of money while feeling good in a refined European atmosphere, this is the place to be.

Sunny day in Lisbon

March 20, 2010

Lisbon is a beautiful city. Not Paris like beautiful or south of France beautiful or even, as I imagine it might be, Italy beautiful, but has that decadent beauty that together with a sunny day turns it into a stunning place to be. It’s very colourful and bright when the sun is shining and even though, if you look close by to most of the colourful buildings you get depressed by the bad state you find them these days, from one of the stunning miradouros* there’s nothing more beautiful than the patchwork Lisbon scenarios are with the colours of tiles, walls and floors.

Last Saturday morning was a perfect day. We left home in the morning for a little breakfast at the nearby café in Graça, went for some shopping in the local butcher and then for morning coffee at Miradouro da Graça.

From Miradouro da Graça you can see the Castle, the downtown valley, the Bairro Alto hill and the sparkling river  in the South. The Café itself is not brilliant but with that view you don’t really care. Especially if the only thing you can handle after the heavy dinner last night and early breakfast is a sparkling Pedras.

Pedras, is the Portuguese sparkling water that in my humble opinion is the second best in the world, at least the second best I have ever tried. Being the first … (drums) … San Pellegrino from Italy, but my opinion on world bottled waters is long enough to give a brand new post so let’s leave that for later.

So, Pedras in Miradouro, with little nice picture illustrating it and after that a walk by the river in Belém.

Belém is a beautiful historical place on the west side of Lisbon. In Belém you can find the Mosteiro dos Jerónimos and the Torre de Belém, two beautiful examples of the Portuguese architecture style Manueline, also known as the Portuguese Renaissance.

In Belém you can also find the Padrão dos Descobrimentos, a building done to celebrate the golden years of Portugal, when we were a great nation of colonialists. I know it sounds bad when I say it these way, but the truth is that Portugal was never in a better situation, and not only financially but culturally. We were proud of our discoveries, being those not only land, gold and spices , but also sailing techniques. Belém is one of the places in Portugal that represents all that and probably the only that does it in such a glorious way.

Also in Belém you can find the beautiful Pastéis de Belém. The perfect custard pies from Lisbon. This time we were there we passed it. But if you ever find yourself in the place, don’t do as we did. Go there and have at least a couple of them, because they are a must have.

The reason Belém is a good place for a sunny day walk is because of its wide paths and parks. It’s very rare to have such a large area in Lisbon to walk. Most of our streets are tiny, which is also fun, if you want to walk in the shadow.

Portuguese pavement patern work.

* viewpoint

Miradouro da Graça Location

Belém Location

Casa México

March 20, 2010

After a week of work, gym and lazing around home, the Friday evening arrives full of expectation. Most of the time you plan a lot and end up doing what you always do, sometimes you do something very different and end up regretting you didn’t do the same old. Sometimes change is all you need. Change and heavy Mexican food.

Casa México is a little restaurant in Av. D. Carlos I in Lisbon dedicated entirely to the Mexican theme. It’s not tacky though. It’s really cozy and nice, apart from being a bit cold and drafty in the winter, but once again, this is a place in Lisbon, not in Scandinavia, so don’t ever expect warm interiors. The service is very nice, not as helpful as most of the people like, but not servile and overly present. Honestly, don’t we all hate having a waiter around all the time in a restaurant leaving you no space and time between courses and no opportunity to say to our company what a pain he/she is? Well in Casa México you won’t have that. But you might not have your beer arriving as fast as you would like either. What you will have is a wonderful margarita to start with, or you think it’s to start with but the drink is so big that will last through your entire meal, and you won’t mind because it goes perfectly with all the heavy food you are about to experience. They also do other fruit margaritas but in drinks I normally like the old classics and I hate tequila that tastes like juice.

The little tapas they bring to the table in the beginning are delicious. There’s a fresh tomato salsa, kind of hot but not too much with really good mixes of herbs, onion and spices (I think I recognized some coriander and cumin in it). That salsa and their guacamole that we ordered for starter are wonderful and some of the best I have ever tried too.

The mains were as good as everything else. Very authentic food. Not that I’m a great connoisseur of what should Mexican food be, but I imagine that should be something consistent, simple, full of spicy and hot flavors and good ingredients, like all other sorts of food should have too, as opposed to little cubes of tasteless chicken fried and served in a depressing dish with some crappy sauces on top, extremely colorful to bring the Mexican feeling but making it as blunt and boring as food can be. That is normally what I got serve in most of the Mexican restaurants I have ever tried in Europe. Except for this one.

I loved this place the first time I have ever been there alone with my bonitão* in one of our “no friends available in Lisbon” Friday nights. This last night we went with Katy and Tom and was as good as last time. The service this last time was a bit worse. Lack of inspiration to deal with the public maybe, anyway, there were couple of things that were quite annoying, like the horrible time waiting for a draft beer or not having cards payment. Apart from that, food was wonderful again and this time we even manage to keep T from ruining our orders and mixing them up with the waiters, cause of his very authentic British accent or his very authentic English man Portuguese.

* handsome

Casa México Website

I leave also a Margarita Recipe but I advise you to not use sugar and put salt on your glass rim.

After the weekend

March 9, 2010

Is always sad when it’s over. Monday is for the sane working part of the world the saddest day in the week. And it’s sad because all you want to do is call to work saying your sick and stay home doing everything you didn’t do during the weekend because of laziness, lack of time or lack of money.

Personally I hate Mondays. Even as a God sceptical person I actively pray for the day that weeks will start having three day weekends instead of the traditional two. I kind of believe that it will eventually happen since it makes no sense at all to work 40 hours a week, you pause and lose concentration more often.

Anyway, you may think that I lost it. I start a blog about weekends and my first post is about Mondays. Well so you start to know me well I normally am this consistent, so don’t get to surprised with the amount of schizophrenia you may find in the place. Well, all this Monday talk has actually a point. Once the weekend is over you need some comfort to face the rest of the week until the weekend is back again and the best way of getting that is through food.

This winter has been one of the worse winters I faced in Portugal since adult life. It has been raining intensively since the end of November almost,  and since January started today is so far the first day with no rain and with a clean and sunny sky. Yesterday when was about time to leave work, with the Monday blues and the sound of rain outside all I wanted was a plate of heavy bean soup.

One of my favourite soups, even though I rarely ever eat it, is Minestrone. The reason why I love it this much is because during my first ever visit to London, while my sister was living there due to her post-doc works, I found myself very happy with a mug of take away Minestrone soup in one of the saddest weeks of my life. I had a condition then that I refer to today as “the de-magnetized syndrome” and due to it I managed to break all my bank cards and my sister visa that I started using (with her permission and a fake signature) after found myself with no access to money in the middle of London. That, New Years eve, my birthday and the overwhelming city made me sad to the point of starting weeping in the middle of Harrods for no clear reason. Oh, reminiscing… reminiscing.

Well anyway, back to the point, that cup of soup saved my day and even though it wasn’t the most tasty home-made food I ever had, it was perfect for that moment and made Minestrone one of my very favourites. So yesterday I cooked one.

I used the recipe from River Café Cookbook. I changed cavalo nero cabbage for Portuguese cabbage and Swiss chard for watercress. I used regular onions instead of red onions and skipped the celery (because is so hard to find food a bit special or out of the normal Portuguese standards in the everyday shops around home or work). I also skipped the herbs because didn’t find any fresh ones (we are still trying to keep other living beings apart from us alive in our home, so our pots of herbs and chilli are still in the growing or project phase) and didn’t want to use dried herbs.  I added some pasta to it and used butter beans together with white beans to make it more creamy. Even with all the skip-y-do and the self interpretation the soup was wonderful. And the reason it was wonderful was because there’s nothing more comforting than a plate of soup. This time I’m sharing my yesterday’s version of it, but later on, when I get the chance to cook it properly with the celery and the herbs that I believe that were lacking a bit in here, I would share the original cookbook recipe, and then you can judge me.

MINESTRONE

2 tbsp of olive oil
3 carrots peeled and cut in circles
2 onions roughly cut
1 head of garlic, cloves peeled.
1 tin (400 gr) of peeled tomatoes
1 medium size portuguese cabbage, stalks removed and roughly shredded
1 bag (250 gr) of watercress
1 tin (400 gr) of pre-cooked butter beans
1 tin (400 gr) of pre-cooked white beans
1 l of chicken stock
100 gr of small pasta (I used pipette but pretty much any smaller short pasta or bigger minute pasta would do)
Salt and pepper
Parmesan


In a big casserole dish fry the carrots and onions in low heat until the onions are soft and brown.

Add the garlic, pepper and the tomatoes without the sauce and let it cook a bit longer.

Now add the cabbage, watercress, beans, the tomato sauce from the tin and the chicken stock.

Let it all come to boiling point, cover the pan and lower the heat to medium low. Leave it cooking for 30 minutes or until the carrots are soft.

Taste it and if needed add some salt. Add the pasta stirring, covered the casserole and let it cook for more 10 minutes or until the pasta is cooked.

Serve with parmesan.